Slaid Cleaves - Still Fighting The War
It can be a tough life being a roots singer, even in the US where awareness of the genre is higher, and it even has its own Billboard chart - although what, to be fair, hasn’t? Slaid Cleaves has spent over 20 years on the circuit, releasing a couple of albums on cassette - remember them? - and playing to no-one in the 90s before gaining a more traditional foothold in the industry in the early 2000s. Still Fighting The War is his first release in four years and continues down the same country-roots path where he made his name. As a consummate storyteller with vivid and life-like characters, Cleaves’ writing is refreshingly economic and effective, even if songs like 'Hometown USA' and 'Welding Burns' have themes familiar from other artists in the genre. The title track is a story of how an American veteran's future path has been shaped by a lifetime of experiences and decisions. ‘Gone’ is a moving tale of a life of companionship, eloquently describing the sadness of Alzheimer's, and the faith and strength of love. While, sounding like a traditional country standard, ‘God’s Own Yodeller’ is all pedal steel guitar and fiddle, and musings on themes of religion. ‘Whim Of Iron’ adds something a little different, and the sweet ‘Texas Love Song’ is, well, a love song set in Texas. With Cleaves’ smooth voice lacking the standard country twang for the most part, there’s an honest feel to this album. However, it's all a little one paced and it needs a bit of added drive to push the whole effort up a notch or two.